Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why won't my child stop coughing?

Here's a great question, one that I experience with son from time to time.

What to do with a chronic cougher? I am embarressed to go out in public
b/c people stare at the awful mom who takes her sick kid out. He's fine
otherwise. He just NEVER stops coughing (keeps me up all night).
SuperNurse, Help!

I know this well.. I have a son who does this too.

Cough in kids can have many causes. The most obvious ones are illness (colds, flu). Coughs from upper respiratory infections shouldn't last any more than a couple of weeks at the most. If the cough continues then you need to look at other causes.

Other common causes of chronic cough in children are asthma and allergies. Is the cough all the time? Coughs that only happen at night or are much worse at night are often caused by post nasal drip. When you lay flat, the cough gets worse because of the drip in the back of the throat. This is very annoying!

Kids can also cough from allergies. Does the cough only happen in certain places (like home where the is a pet?) or at certain times of the year (spring pollen?) If this is the case then allergy medication can be very effective.

Asthma is a huge cause of chronic cough. Albuterol inhalers can be helpful, even if the child doesn't wheeze. Kids who are exposed to cigarette smoke are more likely to develop asthma.

Sometimes kids will get an upper respiratory infection and then cough. All the symptoms get better but the cough doesn't go away and the cough and cough and cough and cough.. this is my son. These kids are usually kids with mild asthma. In this case, steroids are your friend.

Other kids may cough as a habit. This can be very fustrating!

Talk to your health care provider about chronic cough, there are many causes and many different things to try. It definitely isn't normal for a kid cough all the time so it needs further investigation.

Subscribe in a reader


  1. Very good. I had twins with chronic coughs - Paul's ended up as an allergy, David's as subclinical whooping cough Thanks :) an admirer

  2. My child was constant with runny noses and coughs. We are military, so he sees whichever provider is available that day (which I HATE, but I am crazy about remembering all details, so it doesnt work out too bad) The last provider put him on Zyrtec 1/2 tsp daily. The provider after that upped it to 1tsp when I told her that I really wasnt seeing the difference.
    We were back in last week due to cough and RSV at daycare (never can be too cautious) and yet another provider saw us(not my favorite as her bediside manner stinks, and she had the nerve to tell this frantic new mom that a fever was not the worst thing in the was 105, pretty bad in my book, but I digress). Dr J said that he was fine, nothing to worry about for RSV since it was a virus, and all we could do was treat the symptoms, she did notice that he was nasally which I asked, should his nose look like that if he has been on the Zyrtec for 3m. She offered to change to another med to see how he would do, so we are on to Claratin.
    I am not an allergy suffer-er...the child can thank his daddy's bad genes for that. So I guess I dont understand, but I faithfully medicate at the same time every day. But when can I expect to see some results??

  3. I would say that if it's not helping then the problem is probably not allergies. RSV definitely causes runny noses. I would talk to your provider about looking at other causes of the runny noses. Kids can get virus after virus and it seems like the symptoms just don't go away.